‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’

 

Antoine de Saint-Exupe

 

I’m a big fan of minimalist writing in general: Bret Easton Ellis; Chuck Palahniuk, so it’s no surprise that when it comes to copywriting, I tend to lean towards the ‘less is more’ school of thought. Of course, long copy does have its place in marketing, especially for SEO purposes.  And as marketing strategist Al Ries suggests in his post for Advertising Age, longer copy often proves to be more memorable when used in slogans. However, recent trends suggest that digital marketers are now embracing shorter forms of copywriting.

 

Technology’s Increasing Role in Reducing the Size of Sales Copy

 

Modern technology would have us believe that unless we’re able to deliver our message in a couple of sentences, then what we have to say doesn’t warrant being said. Twitter, for example, gives us 140 characters in which to communicate our thoughts or promote our brand. The rise of the smartphone has introduced us to microblogging, enabling us to write short blog posts on our mobiles and post them to our website. As a new technology copywriter, I personally come across this trend all the time.

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And with Google placing an increasing emphasis on mobile-friendly responsive websites, it seems that the standard 600 word blog post is becoming a thing of past and no longer such a necessity for SEO. Similarly, mobile devices have introduced us to photo marketing and with mobile apps like snapchat displaying images for up to 10 seconds, there’s no denying that minimalist marketing is on the rise.

 

Infographics – A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

 

With Google’s increasing focus on the use of images in marketing, it’s no wonder that digital marketers are embracing infographics like never before. The way that people read on the web has changed significantly over the last few years and people now scan for information rather than giving their undivided attention to a piece of text.  And it’s this new ability that online readers have to scan that has made infographics such a popular way of marketing. Their visual appeal grabs people’s attention and they don’t take long to read either.

 

Carefully selected statistics, phrases and images make for light reading but still add value to those searching for information on a particular topic. This minimalist approach to copywriting is undeniably popular as there are now more than twice as many infographics online as there were two years ago. And what’s more, infographics tend to be an effective way of building backlinks as they’re easily embedded on blogs – what’s not to like?

 

Minimalist Email Marketing

 

Even direct marketing methods have seen a shift towards minimalist copy with email subject lines becoming shorter so as to avoid being marked as spam by email filters. Avoiding words like ‘free’, ‘money’,  ‘offer’ and anything else that sounds overly sales-like ensures that your emails reach the recipients’ inboxes and not their junk folder. As with blog posts, only 20% of people read past an email headline unless they recognize the sender.

 

Given that people tend to scan information nowadays, text in the email body tends to be shorter and less informative. Instead, sales emails tend to be written to create intrigue rather than heavily selling a product or service. Shorter emails tend to have a higher read rate too as at first glance, they appear more like short enquiries rather than several pages of product information that most readers instinctively steer away from.

 

Impact on an Industry

 

With an increasing trend towards minimalist copywriting, how might this impact on copywriters and the copywriting industry? Well, possibly not too great for those copywriters that charge per word, given that they may be asked to write less. However, shorter copy doesn’t necessarily mean quicker turnover as a 600 word piece of sales copy doesn’t take twice as long to write as a 300 word piece – at least not in my experience.

 

And what about those three word slogans that we sometimes produce? Can we justify charging for four hours of’ thinking time’ rather than the four seconds of writing time it may take to produce a final strapline?

 

In my opinion, yes we can.

 

Do you think Coca Cola’s finance department gawped when they were billed X amount of hours for their copywriter to come up with their one word slogan ‘enjoy’? I doubt it. Copywriting adds enormous value to a company’s brand whether in the form of website copy, sales emails, blog posts or slogans.

 

This particular post has taken me the best part of 3 hours to write but I know that it’ll continue to market my website long after it’s been published.  At which point, I’m reminded of the Professional Copywriters’ Network’s explanation of pricing for copywriting:

 

‘Pricing by the word positions copywriting as a commodity rather than a professional service. We believe that copywriters offer their clients far more than just words on a page, and that the way they are paid should reflect this. Per-word prices encourage quantity over quality. Five hundred words, or even five, might be far more effective than 5000. When you pay per word, you risk ending up with more words than you need.’

 

Professional Copywriters’ Network

 

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

What do you think? Have you noticed a trend in minimalist copywriting recently? Do you agree that technology is playing a part in this trend? How long will it be before we’re all writing sales emails in haiku form? And how might minimalism impact on the role of the copywriter and on the copywriting industry in general?

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

7 Comments

  1. I totally agree. Web users tend to read shorter texts as the attention span decreases due to new communication requirements. This trend is even more growing by using mobile devices.
    Besides that, I guess it’s also a thing with quality: the text production rate for a fast changing environment like the internet is much higher than for any print products. Therefore, it is better to write short but well written and smart posts instead of long, bad written texts.
    P.S. Please apologize mistakes, I usually write my copy in German ;-).

  2. Doug Nolan says:

    You’re right, there is a move towards shorter copy. And as you say, it’s largely dictated by technology – responsive sites being a prime example of the need to use less text rather than more. It’s as much a simplification of design too – just take a look at this article on responsive typography: http://www.welcomebrand.co.uk/thoughts/the-responsive-web-will-be-99-9-typography/

    Obviously it’s not a new skill for writers though, as we’ve always had to bear length in mind for a given media (postcards, radio ads, and TV scripts, for example). As for the effect on the industry, it can only be a positive one. There’s more copywriting work around due to technology. And shorter copy is smarter copy – clever clients have always known they’re paying a copywriter to know which words to write, and which words to leave out.

    • Thanks for your comment Doug. I agree that less text is definitely an emerging trend in terms of responsive design. I wonder if Google will update their algorithms to reflect this? In my experience, at the moment, web pages with less than 300 words tend not to hold much SEO value. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes.

      Thanks for the link to the typography post. I can empathise with the part about abandoning device testing – who knows how many hours I’ve spent redesigning my homepage so it looks good on mobile devices and I’m still not happy with how it looks.

      I can see from your site that you too lean more towards typography over image heavy content.

      I’m of the same preference.

  3. Shorter copy attracts a wide range of users as their attention towards the content gets reduced after a particular period of time (exceptions are there). More authentic and unique the content is, more users will get attracted to it. I came across the professional copy writing service of Precise-English. They are very profound in this task.

  4. ezuddin says:

    at times, i try to write more and most of the times i write a bit less. Btw, true, the role of the technology today has become more heartfelt inparticular to the readers’ niche.

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